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Notre-Dame fire: Macron pledges to reconstruct cathedral

French President Emmanuel Macron looks on during a joint press conference with Jordan's King Abdullah II following a meeting at the Elysee Palace in Paris on June 19, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / POOL / GONZALO FUENTES (Photo credit should read GONZALO FUENTES/AFP/Getty Images)

French President Emmanuel Macron has vowed to rebuild the medieval cathedral of Notre-Dame after a major fire partially destroyed the Paris landmark.

Firefighters managed to save the 850-year-old Gothic building’s main stone structure, including its two towers, but the spire and roof collapsed.

By the time the fire was extinguished on Tuesday morning, hundreds of millions of euros had been pledged towards the cathedral’s reconstruction.

The cause of the fire is not yet clear.

The Paris prosecutor’s office said it was currently being investigated as an accident, with officials saying it could be linked to extensive renovation works taking place.

A firefighter was slightly injured while tackling the blaze, Commander Jean-Claude Gallet told BFM TV.

What happened?
The fire began at around 18:30 (16:30 GMT) and quickly reached the roof of the cathedral, destroying the wooden interior before toppling the spire.

Fears grew that the cathedral’s famous towers would also be destroyed by the blaze.

But while a number of fires did begin in the towers, French Interior Minister Laurent Nuñez said they were successfully stopped before they could spread.

By the early hours of Tuesday, the fire was declared under control, with the Paris fire service saying it was fully extinguished by 10:00 local time (08:00 GMT).

What is the damage?
Search teams had already begun assessing the extent of the damage when dawn broke over the French capital. The cathedral’s blackened stone and charred scaffolding were revealed to onlookers for the first time.

According to fire brigade spokesman Lt-Col Gabriel Plus “the whole of the roof has been devastated… a part of the vault has collapsed, the spire is no more”.

However, it could have been much worse. Mr Nuñez said that, had fire crews not entered the building, “without doubt it would have collapsed”, French newspaper Le Monde reported.

Photos appear to show that at least one of the cathedral’s famed rose windows has survived, although there are concerns for some of the other stained-glass windows.

Franck Riester, France’s culture minister, warned that while the principal structure had been saved, the building was still unstable.

What happens next?
Already, individuals and groups are mobilising to help rebuild Notre-Dame. Hundreds of millions of euros have already been pledged.

Billionaire François-Henri Pinault, chairman and CEO of the Kering group that owns the Gucci and Yves Saint Laurent fashion brands, pledged €100m (£86m; $113m) towards rebuilding Notre-Dame, AFP news agency reports.

Another €200m was pledged by Bernard Arnault’s family and their company LVMH – a business empire which includes Louis Vuitton and Sephora – on Tuesday morning, according to Reuters news agency.

The French charity Fondation du Patrimoine is launching an international appeal for funds for the cathedral, a Unesco World Heritage site.

Visiting the scene on Monday night, Mr Macron – who said the “worst had been avoided” with the preservation of the cathedral’s main structure – pledged to launch an international fundraising scheme for the reconstruction.

“We’ll rebuild this cathedral all together and it’s undoubtedly part of the French destiny and the project we’ll have for the coming years,” said Mr Macron.

“That’s what the French expect [and] because it’s what our history deserves,” he added, visibly emotional, calling it a “terrible tragedy”.